Actress Felicity Huffman, 13 others to plead guilty in U.S. college admissions scandal

BOSTON (Reuters) - Actress Felicity Huffman and 13 other people have agreed to plead guilty to participating in what prosecutors call the largest college admissions scam uncovered in U.S. history, federal prosecutors said on Monday.

The 14 are among 50 people, including wealthy parents and college team coaches, accused by federal prosecutors in Boston of engaging in schemes that involved cheating on college entrance exams and paying $25 million in bribes to secure their children admission at well-known universities.

Huffman, who starred in “Desperate Housewives,” was among 33 parents charged in March with participating in the scheme in hopes of getting their children into universities including Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.

Prosecutors, as part of a plea deal, agreed to recommend a prison term at the “low end” of the four to 10 months Huffman faces under federal sentencing guidelines. She also agreed to pay a $20,000 fine and restitution.

Huffman, who is married to the actor William H. Macy, in a statement on Monday said she was “ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community.”

“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her,” the former best actress Oscar nominee said.

Authorities say the scheme was overseen by California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer, who has pleaded guilty to facilitating the cheating scam and bribing coaches to present the parents’ children as fake athletic recruits.

Prosecutors said Huffman, 56, made a $15,000 contribution to Singer’s foundation in exchange for having an associate of Singer’s in 2017 secretly correct her daughter’s answers on an SAT college entrance exam at a test center Singer controlled.

Twelve other parents have agreed to plead guilty, including California marketing executive Jane Buckingham and Agustin Huneeus, who owned a California wine company.

Two of the parents, including Gordon Caplan, the former co-chairman of the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, last week themselves disclosed they had reached plea deals.

Two parents who agreed to plead guilty, Bruce Isackson, president of a California real estate development firm, and his wife, Davina Isackson, have also agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.

Additionally, Michael Center, the former head coach of men’s tennis at the University of Texas at Austin, has agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge related to bribes he accepted to designate a child as a recruit.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot